In preparation for the Oracle Users Group Leaders’ Summit that will happen in Redwood Shores California next week, a long time, unsolved issue resurfaced and JUGs have a hope to discuss it during the Summit: the usage of JEDI, an open source Java training material developed by Sun Microsystems through the University of the Philippines Java Research and Development Center. An issue that shows that JUGs, as well as any developer, need to pay attention at those pesky things called Trademarks, Copyrights and Licensing…
JEDI is a wonderful project, promoted by Sun as an open source effort, that many Java User Groups around the world have promoted, used and even translated. Tens of thousands of students have already learned Java from those JUG efforts, specially through the work done by DFJUG and JUG Indonesia, as far as I know, the two largest JEDI/JUG efforts. JUGs are not the only ones teaching JEDI, but they are an important and active part of the project. JUGs do more than translate: they turn the content in something live, that students can relate to, with teachers, friends, support and community.
Because it is a training material, Sun employees from the education group (the former “Sun Education”) have in multiple times in the past complained about the usage of the freely available material, saying that the free training provided by the JUGs is prejudicial to their education interests. One has to wonder how it can be prejudicial: teaching Java in poor areas, and thus increasing the pool of available Java developers, will only increase the chances that they will eventually be able to afford an official training or certification.
But offering the training for free or to developers that can’t afford is not even a requisit! Even if JUGs (or other institutions or even companies) are offering this as paid training, that is the nature of open source. If the material is open source, then, there is nothing to complain about. Or is there? Unfortunately, the JEDI courses are “open source” in description only… The site describes the project as “designed as an open source program”, and in an official letter addressed to “whom it may concern”, Sun called JEDI an “open source Java training course”. But this is where the “open sourceness” of JEDI seems to end… There is no license anywhere, no description of rights that project members have, and no specific public information about rights to translate, distribute or even use this material in courses. So far, the push for JEDI that Sun did in the past, that many JUGs jumped into, seems to lack the effective rights needed now that the efforts became real.
Java User Groups have dealt with Trademark and Copyright issues for some time: the nature of a User Group is to refer to the technology they are a group of, and many have created names, events and logos that incorporated some of the Java trademarks. JUGs also help bridge the language gap, by translating sites, documents and other material. JUGs are enthusiasts, and they jump into good ideas and projects, on the faith that their efforts will benefit the technology. JUGs are non-profit, volunteer, and many times chaotic organizations that mostly lack of understanding on trademark and copyright issues, and many JUGs have stepped the boundaries by creating events or registered logos that fall clearly outside of the guidelines. SouJava, the JUG I helped create, was guilty of that and after years of discussions and agreements, we’re still working with Oracle to resolve some of the (now small) pending issues. The lovely Javapolis event, run by BeJUG, changed its name to Javoxx and then Devoxx because of similar issues. The usage of Duke, the trademarked Java mascot, and even the Java logo itself was heavily abused by JUGs until we created Juggy, the Creative Commons JUGs Mascot, today used by JUGs everywhere. In an act of sanity, Sun eventually released Duke under a BSD license, freeing the Java mascot from his non-sense trademark jail.
JUGs tend to trust that that things will just be fine, but when there is a large effort under way, JUGs need to be more careful. JEDI is great, but with dozens of volunteers putting in hundreds of hours of translation efforts, and affecting the careers of thousands of developers, and many more JUGs lining up to replicate this in their areas, the lack of clarity on its licensing status is really worrisome. It has allowed local Oracle offices trying to sell their course to promote FUD about JUGs activities, preventing then from forging relationships with governments and schools, and even threatening groups trying to stop their efforts.
Right now, this seems to be done in a local level, and not as corporate initiative. And it is not a new Oracle policy, that’s why I mentioned Sun the rest of this post: the threats and FUD are done by the same people who were doing this during Sun’s time, this situation is going on for years. It just gets worst the larger and more spreader the JUG efforts become. Since the JUGs involved haven’t been able to get an answer for years, I think it is time to put the issue in the clear. We may even find out that JEDI is not open source at all, it was just misleading marketing. But I really hope that next week, we can discuss this situation with Oracle during the Summit, and that we can all push JEDI forward with a clear model that will work for everyone involved. In the end, we all want to benefit Java developers, and the combination of an open source training with the enthusiasm of JUG members is a powerful force.